COAMFTE Update and FAQs regarding COVID-19

We recognize the care that programs are putting into the implementation of contingency/emergency plans at this uncertain time.   We appreciate the questions raised by programs regarding the continued training and preparation of students for graduation and licensure.  This FAQ page is an attempt to address questions and to clarify prior communication posted by COAMFTE.

  1. Upcoming 2020 Site Visits - March through August
  2. Foundational and Advanced Curricula
  3. Foundational Practice Component
  4. Do I need to notify COAMFTE if I am making changes to my curriculum or other requirements (e.g. assessments, mode of delivery) based on COVID-19 restrictions?
  5. Are COAMFTE staff available to answer questions during this time?
  6. Other COVID-19 related questions

1. Upcoming 2020 Site Visits - March through August

Due to the uncertainty of the situation at universities and workplaces across the country, and travel restrictions imposed upon site visitors, COAMFTE has made the decision to offer all programs scheduled for a site visit during the Spring 2020 cycle an opportunity to complete a virtual site visit through video conferencing. 

Programs unable to provide all required documentation during a virtual site visit may be asked to provide additional information prior to a final decision about the program’s accreditation status. 

COAMFTE has extended the site visit cycle into August with the hope that travel restrictions may be lifted at that point and on-campus site visits may resume.  Delaying a site visit into the Fall 2020 cycle will create difficulty with scheduling our already busy fall 2020 cycle.  Programs requesting a delay should notify the Director of Accreditation prior to March 31, 2020.

If you have a question about a specific case, please contact coa@aamft.org

2. Foundational & Advanced Curricula: 

What should we do if we are required to move courses online?  What if a component of our required curriculum, or assessment activity for a specific competency, is no longer feasible?

While COAMFTE expects programs to maintain compliance with COAMFTE Accreditation Standards Version 12, we support maximum flexibility for programs in how they address foundational and advanced curricular areas.  We trust that programs will develop appropriate plans to modify course delivery and may offer alternative assessments for students who are enrolled in a course during the period of time impacted by COVID-19. Plans to modify curricula should align with 1) university expectations for academic continuity, 2) licensing requirements in areas to which the program is advertised, and 3) program goals and outcomes.

It is the prerogative of programs to provide accommodations for their students in extenuating circumstances. We expect that programs will act in good faith when modifying course expectations. As these accommodations are made, a gentle reminder to be mindful of potential consequences for students in terms of finances, degree completion, accreditation, licensure, and future employment.

If you have a question about a specific case, please contact coa@aamft.org

3. Foundational Practice Component:

What is COAMFTE guidance on proceeding with practice experiences given disruptions to universities and agencies?

While COAMFTE expects that programs maintain overall compliance with COAMFTE Accreditation Standards Version 12 particularly specific to ensuring all students achieve clinical competency in their program goals and outcomes prior to graduation, we also encourage schools and programs to work with all students to ensure that they can graduate in a timely fashion despite disruptions. Therefore, programs are also able to make contingency/emergency plans for the attainment of client contact hours.  Flexibility and creative solutions should be applied particularly with students who are due to graduate in 2020 and have completed a majority portion of their clinical experience.

COAMFTE temporarily provides programs with the flexibility of decreased clinical hours for students graduating before Fall 2021, but programs should demonstrate that they have evaluated those students as achieving a competency level to the 500 hour requirement and that they have informed students of the impact of the implications on portability and licensing regulations. COAMFTE may request programs to follow up specific to this information in their Annual Report.

Although COAMFTE provides programs with the flexibility of decreased clinical hours for students graduating before Fall 2021.  Programs must demonstrate a minimum of the following direct clinical client contact experience:

  • Direct clinical contact: Students must acquire a minimum of 300 clinical contact hours with individuals, couples, families or other systems, at least 100 of which must be relational, that must occur over a minimum of twelve months of clinical practice.
  • Under this reduced number of clinical contact hours, none of the hours described above can be alternative hours. However, any hours above this requirement can be alternative up to a maximum of 100 additional hours. Programs could consider flexibility in alternative clinical hours and types of experiences, even if not previously used by the program.  For example, flexibility in alternative clinical hours might include supervised clinical experience such as simulation or role-play. Under this decreased clinical hour requirements, programs are not required to include alternative hours.
  • Programs must continue to collect data of student learning outcomes related to clinical competency according to their Outcome Based Education framework.
  • Programs must document that they have informed students of the regulatory requirements in the state or location they plan to practice.
  • COAMFTE maintains the weekly supervision requirement with AAMFT Approved Supervisors or Candidates.
  • COAMFTE supports the possibility of temporary suspension of the use of raw observable data required for supervision as well as for face-to-face supervision in the same physical location, within the 100 hours of required supervision, to ensure public safety during the program’s modification plan.

If a program requires a reduced number of hours, they must align their Foundational Practice Component modifications with state licensing board regulations where the student intends to practice, and with federal guidelines. 

For programs that require the Foundational Practice Component, students graduating in Fall 2021 and thereafter are expected to complete the minimum clinical experience hours consistent with Key Element IV-C in Version 12.0.  

Can students provide teletherapy?

Yes.  Decisions regarding contingency/emergency plans for students in clinical practice settings are the prerogative of the program and affiliating agency officials, in accordance with local, state, and federal recommendations. Programs should keep in mind the guidelines and requirements related to clinical practice experiences established by their respective state licensing boards and federal guidelines.  Programs should also refer to the AAMFT Code of Ethics as they implement technology-assisted services. 

Programs allowing teletherapy to acquire direct clinical content hours must have policies and procedures in place to support student teletherapy practice and its supervision (including virtual supervision, if relevant) with attention to applicable state or provincial regulatory requirements, and federal or commonwealth guidelines, ethical requirements and current/emerging professional guidelines. 

For programs that require the Foundational Practice Component, students graduating in Fall 2021 and thereafter are expected to complete the minimum clinical experience hours consistent with Key Element IV-C. 

If you have a question about a specific case, please contact coa@aamft.org

4. Do I need to notify COAMFTE if I am making changes to my curriculum or other requirements (e.g., assessments, mode of delivery) based on COVID-19 restrictions?

If we need to modify curricular requirements (e.g., assessments, mode of delivery) to accommodate current circumstances, are we required to submit a substantive change notice?  Do we need to notify COAMFTE if we change from letter grading to pass/fail?

No, a substantive change notice is not required unless the modification is a permanent change. COAMFTE does not intend to approve individual plans during the period of time impacted by COVID-19. A temporary change to distance-based delivery due to current circumstances does NOT require the submission of a substantive change form.

When your institution has implemented its contingency/emergency plan, please immediately inform COAMFTE at coa@aamft.org. COAMFTE may request programs to follow up specific to this information in their Annual Report.  Please also notify COAMFTE as soon as your program has completed operating under the contingency/emergency/emergency plan and is back to operating normally.

If you have a question about a specific case, please contact coa@aamft.org

5. Are COAMFTE staff available to answer questions during this time?

Yes! Following our state and local guidelines, COAMFTE staff is working remotely. As always, you may submit your questions to coa@aamft.org or call (703) 253-0473. Our staff is ready to be a resource to you during this time.

6. Other COVID-19 related questions

If you have any COVID-19 related questions not addressed above, please contact coa@aamft.org

We encourage you to access the most current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/Coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html